The soya bean is a species of legume which is native to East Asia. This bean has a multitude of uses.
Containing only 2.9g of saturated fat this bean is commonly used in vegetarian foods and meat substitutes. Soybeans contain a large proportion of unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This fat is known to increase the HDL (High-density Lipids) which is good cholesterol and they do this while lowering your LDL (Low-density lipids) or bad cholesterol. Both these in combination can reduce your risk of heart disease. Soybeans also come in at 1797mg of potassium per 100g which is 51% of your RDI. Potassium is responsible for preventing muscle cramps which is one reason why soy is very popular among vegan athletes. Potassium also stabilizes blood pressure and blood sugar making it very useful for people with diabetes or who are overweight. They contain 9g of dietary fibre. With 97% of the population low in fibre soybeans are a great source which is easy to add to your diet
For more on fibre: https://pie-or-2.org/2017/10/11/benefits-of-fibre/
100g of soybeans also provides you with 87% of your RDI of Iron. Soybeans, however, also contain phytic acid and so it is beneficial to soak them to remove this so that more iron can be absorbed. Another excellent method of reducing the phytic acid is fermentation which is why so many soy products are fermented. Examples of fermented soy products are Miso, Tempeh and natto. Other popular products such as tofu and soymilk still contain phytic acid which inhibits the iron absorption.
Soybeans are also a great source of magnesium providing 97% of your RDI. Magnesium which increases energy calms nerves and anxiety and regulates levels of calcium, potassium and sodium This makes soy great for the heart and the muscles providing further benefits for athletes, diabetics and obese people.
Soy has been given a bad rap over the past few years so it’s important to address these concerns.
Can soy give me breast cancer?
As soy contains oestrogen it has been linked to breast cancer. The oestrogen that is in soy is not as strong as animal-based oestrogen, in fact, it is 1000 times weaker. The isoflavones contained in soybeans can also have positive effects in regulating cell growth, safeguarding against some cancers, and regulating cholesterol levels. In Asia where there is a higher consumption of soy, there are actually lower rates of breast cancer.
Soy is bad for the heart.
Soy is actually good for your heart. Eating foods that contain isoflavones (like soy) can help lower blood pressure. The isoflavones work by dilating your blood vessels and reduce the pressure that is created by the blood against the vessel walls. It addition soy contains fibre which reduces LDL and contains a source of protein which is better for your heart than saturated fat-rich animal-based proteins.
Soy is bad for the thyroid.
There is some truth in this. Although soy does not affect thyroid function in those who have a healthy thyroid it does pose some danger to those who are taking thyroid medication by affecting the way the medication is absorbed and making it less effective. As a general tip, you may want to wait a few hours after taking your thyroid medication before consuming soy or soy-based products.
Soy lowers testosterone
A limited number of clinical trials and anecdotes report that soy lowers testosterone. However, with closer analysis, it appears that high doses were often used providing an unrealistic daily intake. Many clinical studies suggest that a normal intake will not trigger a hormonal imbalance.
Extra: Not all soy is created equal
Like all foods, the whole product soy is best as they retain the most nutritional benefits. For example, tofu is packed with calcium and is high in omega-3 fats which are great for the brain. (FYI tofu makes a great substitute for scrambled egg). Fermented products such as tempeh, natto and miso contain nutrients which are more easily absorbed and contain probiotics keeping your gut healthy.